Making movies in crippled economy

HOLLYWOOD, the most vibrant movie industry worldwide, produces thousands of movies a year with most of them costing millions of dollars to produce; a budget unthinkable in Third World countries like Zimbabwe.

OWN CORRESPONDENT

However, some local artistes have not let that deter them from creating their own productions.

The movie Qiniso, which was shot in Bulawayo with an all-Bulawayo cast and crew sounds like a fairy-tale, yet it seems to be a bigger reality than most people would imagine.

News and Internet are awash with talk of the movie which premieres on February 7 at the Bulawayo Centre. Judging from the calibre of actors involved such as Lady Tshawe, Philani A Nyoni, Bekithemba “Thorne” Ndlovu and Anne Maliki, who have made great strides in their own fields, it is certainly worth watching.

one of the scenes on Qiniso the movie

one of the scenes on Qiniso the movie

Qiniso scriptwriter and director Lenni Mdawini expressed great enthusiasm and faith in the project. That faith would be tested on premiere night, considering that Bulawayo does not have the millions to compete with Hollywood.

In an interview, Mdawini expressed disappointment at how artistes in Bulawayo and the country have been reduced to beggars, with some taking money from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and later delivering bad products.

“The industry is full of opportunists who know how to charm NGOs and that has hurt our sector very much,” he said.

“With Qiniso, we went for a different approach; the script was the product and we all came in as shareholders. Earnest Mackina brought his camera and skills, the artistes brought their time and talents because they believed in the product and what remained was the execution and selling it at the end of the day.”

He added: “Money becomes a problem if you allow it to be. The first step is to be realistic — you can’t create a script with too much explosions and car chases locally.

The industry is too young for such spending. Hollywood can do it because their films can gross billions. We start from the basics — a good script, good acting and an able crew.

“Once you minimise expenses and maximise output, you are working. Artistes should treat their crafts like a business — invest to grow. Right now we as local filmmakers are not using our local cinemas, but we want to complain.”

Mdawini said Qiniso was a pilot on the sustainability of film as an industry.

“Right now we cry about unemployment in this region,” he said.

“We cry ‘marginalisation’, but until we realise that no one owes us anything and we have to do it ourselves, we will always cry. Worse off for us the young ones, we will be that generation that never accomplished anything.

“The conditions will never be right, but somehow you have to pull through because you owe it to yourself. You can’t make excuses forever. When people watch Qiniso, I hope they will be inspired to realise they can do anything if they set their minds to it.”

He added: “We have to start somewhere; this is a foundation. When people realise what we can do, they will hopefully realise the role we can play in multimedia production for corporates, or even assist in advertising through product placement, but unless we do the donkey-work first, deliver quality and make something from nothing, there will be no glory.”

Award-winning poet Philani Nyoni, who is part of the cast and is one of the producers of the film, lamented the state of the industry and blamed some of the practitioners for it.

“Yes, any art can be a career, but the industry is in disarray,” he said.

“We need structures. When we approached Rainbow Cinemas, they were very eager to work with us; they saw the product and we started talking contractual terms.

“They believe in film and it is up to us as creators to provide people with entertainment they can relate to; something home-grown but we shouldn’t forget that we are competing with the larger world, DStv, the Internet and nightclubs. Bulawayo has a lot of talent, maybe they just need courage. If Qiniso can be but a glimpse of the possibilities ahead, I can die in peace the day after.”

Both artistes believe the best way to shape the industry and make it relevant is by working with what one has and making the best out of it and impressing the client.

“Despite any conditions one might have, despite any reality, you have to bite the bullet and pull through to the end,” Mdawini laughed.

“When you watch Qiniso, if we told you our actual budget, what we went through to create it or how long it took, we would have to be burnt for ‘practicing’ witchcraft.”

Because Qiniso has been branded proudly Bulawayo, it is written in English and Ndebele. Some people have appeared on social media accusing the production house of tribalism, but Mdawini laughed off these allegations.

“How does creating work in my own language, with people from my hometown and showing it first in my city, make me a tribalist?” he asked.

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